Six members of a Brampton family were among the 18 Canadians killed Sunday when an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed mere minutes after takeoff.
Manant Vaidya and his wife Hiral informs that his parents, sister, brother-in-law, and two young nieces were on holiday when they were killed in yesterday’s crash.
The family planned the trip Kenya to coincide with the young girl’s March break. Vaidya said his sister was born in Kenya and wanted to show her daughters where she spent the first few years of her life.
His sister had asked their parents to join them on the vacation. The family was looking forward to a safari trip while visiting the country.
The victims include Pannagesh Vaidya, 73, his wife Hansini Vaidya, 67, their daughter Kosha Vaidya, 37, her husband Prerit Dixit, 45, and their two children, 14-year-old Ashka and 13-year-old Anushka.
Vaidya said he spoke to both the Canadian Consulate and the Indian Embassy in Ethiopia, who confirmed their tragic deaths.
“It has been almost 35 years since my sister went to Kenya. She wanted to show her daughters where she was born, where she got delivered in the hospital, and a safari was something they wanted to do… to enjoy the animals. So, with March break, this time was perfect,” he said, pausing to wipe away tears.
“They asked my parents if they would like to come as well. Unfortunately, my parents agreed, so… So everybody in my family… They were killed.”
Vaidya sponsored his parents to come to Canada from India back in 2006. They became permanent residents of Canada in 2012 – something Vaidya said improved and enriched all of their lives.
“They were all alone in India,” he said.
“It’s very lonely now, it’s hard,” Hiral Vaidya added. “My kids had huge support from my in-laws. They were taken care of by my mother-in-law. It’s a huge loss for us. We don’t know what’s next. It’s hard to recover from this.”
Prerit Dixit worked in healthcare and his wife, Kosha Vaidya, worked in human resources at a Canadian company.
Vaidya said his young nieces were practically best friends with his own two daughters. Both girls were smart and talented in many hobbies, he said. Anuksha, in particular, was enrolled in extra studies in computer science and technology with a focus on robotics.
“The two kids, they were brilliant in academics,” he said.
“Ashka was really good at singing, as well,” Hiral Vaidya said. “Anushka was really good at catgut, which is a dance from India.”
Ashka attended Chinguacousy Secondary School and Anushka was at Centennial Sr. Public School, both in Brampton.
Both schools sent out a letter to students and their families on Monday afternoon, notifying the community of their loss. Counsellors will be made available at the school on March 18, when classes resume after the break.
“This tragedy has brought great sadness to the students and staff,” the schools wrote.
“Even students who did not personally know [Ashka or Anushka] may be affected by this loss. It is important to remember that death can affect students in a variety of ways. Students who have experienced a recent trauma or death in the family may particularly need additional support.”
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said the family is dealing with an “unbelievably tragic situation” in a statement issued on Monday.
“Global Affairs Canada has been in touch with the family members in Brampton and will assist,” he wrote. “As a sign of respect, all flags at City Hall with be half-mast until further notice.”
“As more details become known, I will provide a further update on how Brampton residents can assist this family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this time of sorrow and reflection.”
It is not known what caused the Ethiopian Airlines plane to go down, six minutes after taking off from Bole Airport in Addis Ababa.
None of the 157 people aboard survived the crash.
On Monday, an airline official confirmed to The Associated Press that the “black box” had been recovered, though it was partially damaged.
Vaidya said his brother-in-law always booked the “best flight” when travelling, often doing extensive research on his options before buying.
“He always does his homework before he chooses. Even with the new technology on the planes, I’m surprised that there was an issue like that,” he said.
“My message to Boeing and any airline is to please do the quality checks so we don’t lose people. I mean, a four-month-old plane that goes down with the newest version of technology…”
Now, Vaidya and his wife have to wait on word from officials in Ethiopia about the recovery of remains.
It may be another 72 hours before the family will know whether their loved ones were located.
“Once the remains are found, if at all, then we will be making the travel arrangements to go to Ethiopia and identify those,” he said.
“If in the event we are fortunate enough to get the remains, I will be travelling to Ethiopia in the next few days. If not, then… I don’t know.”
Vaidya remains hopeful some of their remains will be found. He said his mother still has close family in India and that if something is located, he will bring their ashes to India for traditional Hindu rituals before returning to Canada.
“To make sure that their souls get peace,” he said.
In the meantime, other members of their family have flocked to their Brampton home to offer support during the difficult time. The impending adjustment to life without their immediate family already weighs heavy on their minds.
“I felt with my mother-in-law, she was like she was my mother. She cared. Whatever happened with me… any issue… she was just so caring. It’s a big loss,” Hiral Vaidya said.
“It’s just a nightmare.”
We mourn for families & friends of the 139 people who lost their lives in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, including two @Peelschools students & their parents.
— Peel District School Board (@PeelSchools) March 11, 2019
Mayor Patrick Brown released a statement extending his deepest condolences on behalf of the Members of the Brampton City Council to the Vaidya and Dixit family of Brampton.
“This is an unbelievably tragic situation for this family. Global Affairs Canada have been in touch with the family members in Brampton and will assist them”
“As a sign of respect, all flags at City Hall will be half-mast until further notice. As more details become known, I will provide a further update on how Brampton residents can assist this family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this time of sorrow and reflection,” he concluded.